How do on-the-job injuries and illnesses impact wealth?
This research focuses on one neglected area of workers' compensation research, the effect of injury and illness on net worth. We track participants in the NLSY79: one-third of these baby boomers were hurt at work, but 38% of them did not file for workers' compensation. We find that the typical young baby boomer who is never injured has both much higher absolute wealth and wealth growth rates than boomers who are ever injured. Regression results that control for unobserved heterogeneity suggest, however, that the injury does not predict lower wealth unless workers have reported wage losses or spells off work because of their accidents. For these employees wealth is dramatically reduced, regardless of their participation in the workers' compensation system. We also find that injured workers significantly reduce their consumption over time. These results raise new questions about the adequacy of workers' compensation benefits and the quality of jobs injured workers are able to return to. They suggest that sudden health problems caused by occupational injuries may affect more than employers' costs and individuals' incomes; they may have also wider and longer lasting consequences in term of families' wealth and well-being.
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